Showing posts tagged as "mexico"

Showing posts tagged mexico

28 Feb
The Arrest of El Chapo: What’s Next for Mexico?
The arrest of Joaquín Guzmán Loera – known as “El Chapo” or “Shorty” – ended a 13-year manhunt for the kingpin who reputedly heads the world’s largest drug cartel. Mexican marines captured Guzmán on 22 February in a bloodless early morning raid on an ocean-front condominium in his home state of Sinaloa.
The successful operation was a coup for Mexico’s intelligence services and U.S. counter-narcotics agents whose collaboration and persistence finally led to Guzmán’s capture. It may also provide a political boost for President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval ratings have tumbled amid concerns over the economy and continued insecurity. Less clear is whether the arrest will enhance the security of Mexican citizens who live in regions still plagued by high rates of murder, extortion and kidnapping. Crisis Group’s Mexico/Central America Project will analyse the government’s efforts to counter organised crime in vulnerable regions in upcoming reports on Ciudad Juárez and the state of Michoacán.
In this Q&A, Mary Speck (@speckmary), Crisis Group’s Mexico and Central America Project Director, discusses the significance of Guzmán’s arrest for the narcotics trade, for the state’s fight against organised crime and for Mexicans caught in drug-related violence that has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives over eight years. (See Crisis Group’s report, Peña Nieto’s Challenge: Criminal Cartels and Rule of Law in Mexico.)
Q: How did “El Chapo” Guzmán and the Sinaloa cartel become so powerful?
Guzmán was born in a region of Mexico where trafficking has long been a way of life. Nicknamed Mexico’s “golden triangle”, the mountainous area where the states of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa meet has been a source of narcotics for at least a century. Generations of small farmers in this remote, impoverished region have cultivated opium poppies and marijuana, selling their harvest to local bosses who would take charge of smuggling it across the U.S. border. Cocaine (grown in South America) was added to the mix beginning in the 1970s and 80s, when Colombian cartels began to seek alternative routes to the U.S. By the late 1990s, much of the cocaine heading to U.S. markets went via Central America and Mexico. The most enterprising (or ruthless) Mexican drug bosses became cartel kingpins in charge of distributing vast amounts of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and, eventually, methamphetamines to the U.S. and around the world.
Guzmán’s humble origins and business acumen are part of his legend: a farmer’s son mentored by local mafiosos rises to head a multibillion dollar drugs network said to have operatives not only in the Americas but in Europe, West Africa and South East Asia. His cartel was reportedly responsible for innovations such as transporting drugs under water on “narco-submarines” and via tunnels beneath the Mexican border. He even opened a cannery that shipped cocaine to Mexican-owned groceries in the U.S. disguised as canned chilli-peppers. Guillermo Valdés, a former director of Mexican intelligence, in an interview with El País called Guzmán a man “of great imagination and entrepreneurial creativity. He is a business genius”.
Unlike the rival Zetas cartel, which had a reputation for taking over drug routes by force, the Sinaloa cartel is reportedly a more decentralised network of criminal groups that generally prefer to operate under the radar, using a vast web of patronage to secure popular support and to corrupt elected officials and security forces. But Guzmán’s organisation does not shun violence: its battles to take over Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, both key drug crossings and markets on the U.S. border, cost thousands of lives, especially between 2007 and 2011.
Q: How important is this arrest to the Mexican government? Has it dealt a decisive blow to the cartels?
Guzmán’s arrest has great symbolic importance: this is a man who not only ran a gigantic criminal enterprise but also achieved mythic status in Mexico, the subject of corridos(ballads) celebrating his power, wealth and defiance of authority. His escape from prison in 2001 (allegedly in a laundry cart and most likely after having paid massive bribes) only added to his aura of invincibility. By taking Guzmán – and by doing so in a carefully planned operation without bloodshed – the government has shown that Mexico has the will and ability to bring even the most powerful narco to justice. That is a huge blow against impunity.
Guzmán is not the only powerful trafficker to fall over the past year. In July and August 2013, troops took the top leaders of two rival cartels in Tamaulipas, near the U.S. border: Miguel Ángel Treviño, or Z-40, of the Zetas cartel, and Mario Armando Ramírez, of the Gulf cartel. In January of this year, federal police and soldiers captured leaders of two cartels that compete along the Pacific Coast: Rubén Oseguera González, son of and second in command to the head of Jalisco-Nueva Generación and Dionisio Loya Plancarte, one of the most-wanted leaders of the Knights Templar, a cult-like group of meth traffickers and extortionists in Michoacán.
Most of the recent high-level arrests have been carried out by military units, acting on information provided both by Mexico’s own intelligence services and by U.S. agents. Mexico remains overly reliant on the army and navy, which have been accused of serious human rights violations, to carry out operations that should be handled by civilian forces. The perception that police are incompetent and corrupt is still a major obstacle to security in Mexico.

Q: What will happen in Sinaloa and in other regions affected by drug-related violence? 
In Guzmán’s home state, there is apprehension that a succession crisis within the cartel could provoke bloody infighting and/or territorial struggles with rival groups. The arrest was good for Peña Nieto, writes columnist Jorge Zepeda Patterson, but it may not be good for the inhabitants of the Pacific Coast states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Nayarit and Durango, which have suffered less violence than other drug transit areas. Analyst Alejandro Hope predicts that without Guzmán’s leadership the Sinaloa cartel will fragment into smaller, more diversified groups that “engage in all forms of rent extraction, from kidnapping to extortion to theft”. Such groups may not pose a threat to the Mexican state, but they can wreak havoc on local communities.
Some communities in Sinaloa have reportedly begun to form “self-defence” groups – local vigilante militias. That process might accelerate should rival cartels start to move in. The Peña Nieto government has sent troops to control the vigilante militias that, as International Crisis Group has reported, have become dangerously powerful in the southern Pacific Coast states of Michoacán and Guerrero, while offering to incorporate them into rural and municipal police. How many are willing to join legal entities and how they will be monitored remains unclear. Armed, poorly supervised local militias can end up selling “protection” through force and intimidation, thus perpetuating the extortion rackets they were created to eliminate. They are also vulnerable to penetration by rival cartels.
Q: Are arrests, such as that of Guzmán, sufficient to tackle the problem of organised drugs-related crime?
The arrest of leaders alone is unlikely to significantly weaken organised crime: other caposmay emerge from within the organisation or other gangs move in to take over the former leader’s territory, sometimes resulting in even more violence. More important in the long run is developing police forces and a justice system capable of enforcing law and order in the neighbourhoods and towns where traffickers and other criminals have become de facto authorities. Shortly after taking office, Peña Nieto presented the outlines of a violence prevention strategy focused on high-crime communities, but critics contend the government is repackaging existing social programs rather than providing additional resources for new initiatives.
The reconfiguration of Mexican cartels following the arrest of top leaders makes it all the more urgent for President Peña Nieto to fulfil his promises to make crime prevention, including social programs and community policing, a central focus of his government’s security strategy. It is no accident that trafficking organisations often emerge in marginalised communities, with little access to education or government services – places like the birthplace of “El Chapo” in Sinaloa. The Mexican state needs to demonstrate that the drug lords largely responsible for the carnage of recent years will be punished. It also needs to fill the institutional vacuum that allows organised crime to thrive, convincing the residents of Sinaloa and other regions penetrated by criminal gangs that the state can provide security, education and other services designed to prevent crime and spur economic development.
crisisgroupblogs.org
PHOTO:  REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

The Arrest of El Chapo: What’s Next for Mexico?

The arrest of Joaquín Guzmán Loera – known as “El Chapo” or “Shorty” – ended a 13-year manhunt for the kingpin who reputedly heads the world’s largest drug cartel. Mexican marines captured Guzmán on 22 February in a bloodless early morning raid on an ocean-front condominium in his home state of Sinaloa.

The successful operation was a coup for Mexico’s intelligence services and U.S. counter-narcotics agents whose collaboration and persistence finally led to Guzmán’s capture. It may also provide a political boost for President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval ratings have tumbled amid concerns over the economy and continued insecurity. Less clear is whether the arrest will enhance the security of Mexican citizens who live in regions still plagued by high rates of murder, extortion and kidnapping. Crisis Group’s Mexico/Central America Project will analyse the government’s efforts to counter organised crime in vulnerable regions in upcoming reports on Ciudad Juárez and the state of Michoacán.

In this Q&A, Mary Speck (@speckmary), Crisis Group’s Mexico and Central America Project Director, discusses the significance of Guzmán’s arrest for the narcotics trade, for the state’s fight against organised crime and for Mexicans caught in drug-related violence that has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives over eight years. (See Crisis Group’s report, Peña Nieto’s Challenge: Criminal Cartels and Rule of Law in Mexico.)

Q: How did “El Chapo” Guzmán and the Sinaloa cartel become so powerful?

Guzmán was born in a region of Mexico where trafficking has long been a way of life. Nicknamed Mexico’s “golden triangle”, the mountainous area where the states of Chihuahua, Durango and Sinaloa meet has been a source of narcotics for at least a century. Generations of small farmers in this remote, impoverished region have cultivated opium poppies and marijuana, selling their harvest to local bosses who would take charge of smuggling it across the U.S. border. Cocaine (grown in South America) was added to the mix beginning in the 1970s and 80s, when Colombian cartels began to seek alternative routes to the U.S. By the late 1990s, much of the cocaine heading to U.S. markets went via Central America and Mexico. The most enterprising (or ruthless) Mexican drug bosses became cartel kingpins in charge of distributing vast amounts of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and, eventually, methamphetamines to the U.S. and around the world.

Guzmán’s humble origins and business acumen are part of his legend: a farmer’s son mentored by local mafiosos rises to head a multibillion dollar drugs network said to have operatives not only in the Americas but in Europe, West Africa and South East Asia. His cartel was reportedly responsible for innovations such as transporting drugs under water on “narco-submarines” and via tunnels beneath the Mexican border. He even opened a cannery that shipped cocaine to Mexican-owned groceries in the U.S. disguised as canned chilli-peppers. Guillermo Valdés, a former director of Mexican intelligence, in an interview with El País called Guzmán a man “of great imagination and entrepreneurial creativity. He is a business genius”.

Unlike the rival Zetas cartel, which had a reputation for taking over drug routes by force, the Sinaloa cartel is reportedly a more decentralised network of criminal groups that generally prefer to operate under the radar, using a vast web of patronage to secure popular support and to corrupt elected officials and security forces. But Guzmán’s organisation does not shun violence: its battles to take over Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, both key drug crossings and markets on the U.S. border, cost thousands of lives, especially between 2007 and 2011.

Q: How important is this arrest to the Mexican government? Has it dealt a decisive blow to the cartels?

Guzmán’s arrest has great symbolic importance: this is a man who not only ran a gigantic criminal enterprise but also achieved mythic status in Mexico, the subject of corridos(ballads) celebrating his power, wealth and defiance of authority. His escape from prison in 2001 (allegedly in a laundry cart and most likely after having paid massive bribes) only added to his aura of invincibility. By taking Guzmán – and by doing so in a carefully planned operation without bloodshed – the government has shown that Mexico has the will and ability to bring even the most powerful narco to justice. That is a huge blow against impunity.

Guzmán is not the only powerful trafficker to fall over the past year. In July and August 2013, troops took the top leaders of two rival cartels in Tamaulipas, near the U.S. border: Miguel Ángel Treviño, or Z-40, of the Zetas cartel, and Mario Armando Ramírez, of the Gulf cartel. In January of this year, federal police and soldiers captured leaders of two cartels that compete along the Pacific Coast: Rubén Oseguera González, son of and second in command to the head of Jalisco-Nueva Generación and Dionisio Loya Plancarte, one of the most-wanted leaders of the Knights Templar, a cult-like group of meth traffickers and extortionists in Michoacán.

Most of the recent high-level arrests have been carried out by military units, acting on information provided both by Mexico’s own intelligence services and by U.S. agents. Mexico remains overly reliant on the army and navy, which have been accused of serious human rights violations, to carry out operations that should be handled by civilian forces. The perception that police are incompetent and corrupt is still a major obstacle to security in Mexico.

Q: What will happen in Sinaloa and in other regions affected by drug-related violence? 

In Guzmán’s home state, there is apprehension that a succession crisis within the cartel could provoke bloody infighting and/or territorial struggles with rival groups. The arrest was good for Peña Nieto, writes columnist Jorge Zepeda Patterson, but it may not be good for the inhabitants of the Pacific Coast states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Nayarit and Durango, which have suffered less violence than other drug transit areas. Analyst Alejandro Hope predicts that without Guzmán’s leadership the Sinaloa cartel will fragment into smaller, more diversified groups that “engage in all forms of rent extraction, from kidnapping to extortion to theft”. Such groups may not pose a threat to the Mexican state, but they can wreak havoc on local communities.

Some communities in Sinaloa have reportedly begun to form “self-defence” groups – local vigilante militias. That process might accelerate should rival cartels start to move in. The Peña Nieto government has sent troops to control the vigilante militias that, as International Crisis Group has reported, have become dangerously powerful in the southern Pacific Coast states of Michoacán and Guerrero, while offering to incorporate them into rural and municipal police. How many are willing to join legal entities and how they will be monitored remains unclear. Armed, poorly supervised local militias can end up selling “protection” through force and intimidation, thus perpetuating the extortion rackets they were created to eliminate. They are also vulnerable to penetration by rival cartels.

Q: Are arrests, such as that of Guzmán, sufficient to tackle the problem of organised drugs-related crime?

The arrest of leaders alone is unlikely to significantly weaken organised crime: other caposmay emerge from within the organisation or other gangs move in to take over the former leader’s territory, sometimes resulting in even more violence. More important in the long run is developing police forces and a justice system capable of enforcing law and order in the neighbourhoods and towns where traffickers and other criminals have become de facto authorities. Shortly after taking office, Peña Nieto presented the outlines of a violence prevention strategy focused on high-crime communities, but critics contend the government is repackaging existing social programs rather than providing additional resources for new initiatives.

The reconfiguration of Mexican cartels following the arrest of top leaders makes it all the more urgent for President Peña Nieto to fulfil his promises to make crime prevention, including social programs and community policing, a central focus of his government’s security strategy. It is no accident that trafficking organisations often emerge in marginalised communities, with little access to education or government services – places like the birthplace of “El Chapo” in Sinaloa. The Mexican state needs to demonstrate that the drug lords largely responsible for the carnage of recent years will be punished. It also needs to fill the institutional vacuum that allows organised crime to thrive, convincing the residents of Sinaloa and other regions penetrated by criminal gangs that the state can provide security, education and other services designed to prevent crime and spur economic development.

crisisgroupblogs.org

PHOTO:  REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

23 Aug
Setbacks in Sri Lanka, the use of force in Mexico, Iran’s centrifuges and more — check out what we’ve been up to this week.

Setbacks in Sri Lanka, the use of force in Mexico, Iran’s centrifuges and more — check out what we’ve been up to this week.

20 Aug

Del Estado, el monopolio de la fuerza y del uso de la violencia, dice Ciurlizza | CNN en Español

“Es indispensable que el Estado mantenga el monopolio del uso de la fuerza y el monopolio del uso de la violencia”, dice Javier Ciurlizza, miembro de International Crisis Group, en entrevista con Carmen Aristegui en CNN en Español.

El surgimiento de policías comunitarias se explica –dice- debido al aumento de la violencia, y las dudas sobre la eficiencia de la policía y la justicia por parte del gobierno.

FULL ARTICLE (CNN México)

28 May
"Many residents have taken up arms because the state has systematically failed to protect them."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico

"The government needs to work with the authentic and unarmed community police and clearly define the parameters of what they can and cannot do."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico

"The vigilantism issue is complicated by the fact that many communities, particularly indigenous, have a centuries-old tradition of community policing."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico

"The clamour for security is legitimate; but justice is better served through functional state institutions than the barrels of private guns."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico

"If the government fails to deal with the issue of vigilantism, militias could spread across the country, triggering more violence and further damaging the rule of law."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico

Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico
Mexico City/Bogotá/Brussels  |   28 May 2013
The rise of civilian militias to combat lawlessness will make it harder than ever to defeat the cartels unless the government regulates the vigilantes.  
Crisis Group’s latest briefing, Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico, examines the rapid expansion this year of civilian armed groups that claim to be fighting crime. Although many contain well-meaning citizens and have detained hundreds of suspected criminals, they challenge the government’s basic monopoly on the use of force to impart justice, and some have their own links to the cartels.
The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:
The epicentre of these groups is in Michoacán and a second Pacific state, Guerrero. Thousands of armed men are participating in a range of vigilante organisations. This has coincided with protests against government reforms, including road blockades and looting of food trucks, that are part of a broader challenge to state authority. Mexico’s recent law-enforcement offensive in Michoacán state demonstrates the limits of a militarisation of anti-drug cartel policies.
The spread of these militias in the coming years could lead to parts of the country existing outside the control of official law enforcement. As the militias proliferate, there is also concern that some are being used by criminal groups to fight their rivals and control territory.
The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto needs a coherent policy on vigilantism so it can work with authentic community policing projects, particularly in indigenous communities, while stopping the continued expansion of unregulated armed groups. This requires demonstrating that the state has sufficient capacity to restore law and order on its own.
There are signs that the militias can be contained. Many community police units are keen not to be associated with the more violent groups and may be prepared to compromise over how they operate. Agreements between some vigilante leaders and governors show voluntary disarmament can be achieved. If the government formulates a coherent policy, vigilante militias need not become an integral feature of the national landscape.
“Community policing can make a good contribution to fighting insecurity, but only if it is legal and works with the government”, says Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Director. “Groups that take the law into their own hands only add to violence and can be used by criminal organisations for their own objectives”.
“The clamour for security is legitimate,” says Mark Schneider, Senior Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America. “But justice is better served through effective law enforcement institutions than the barrels of private guns”. 
FULL BRIEFING

Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico

Mexico City/Bogotá/Brussels  |   28 May 2013

The rise of civilian militias to combat lawlessness will make it harder than ever to defeat the cartels unless the government regulates the vigilantes.  

Crisis Group’s latest briefing, Justice at the Barrel of a Gun: Vigilante Militias in Mexico, examines the rapid expansion this year of civilian armed groups that claim to be fighting crime. Although many contain well-meaning citizens and have detained hundreds of suspected criminals, they challenge the government’s basic monopoly on the use of force to impart justice, and some have their own links to the cartels.

The briefing’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • The epicentre of these groups is in Michoacán and a second Pacific state, Guerrero. Thousands of armed men are participating in a range of vigilante organisations. This has coincided with protests against government reforms, including road blockades and looting of food trucks, that are part of a broader challenge to state authority. Mexico’s recent law-enforcement offensive in Michoacán state demonstrates the limits of a militarisation of anti-drug cartel policies.
  • The spread of these militias in the coming years could lead to parts of the country existing outside the control of official law enforcement. As the militias proliferate, there is also concern that some are being used by criminal groups to fight their rivals and control territory.
  • The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto needs a coherent policy on vigilantism so it can work with authentic community policing projects, particularly in indigenous communities, while stopping the continued expansion of unregulated armed groups. This requires demonstrating that the state has sufficient capacity to restore law and order on its own.
  • There are signs that the militias can be contained. Many community police units are keen not to be associated with the more violent groups and may be prepared to compromise over how they operate. Agreements between some vigilante leaders and governors show voluntary disarmament can be achieved. If the government formulates a coherent policy, vigilante militias need not become an integral feature of the national landscape.

“Community policing can make a good contribution to fighting insecurity, but only if it is legal and works with the government”, says Javier Ciurlizza, Crisis Group’s Latin America and Caribbean Program Director. “Groups that take the law into their own hands only add to violence and can be used by criminal organisations for their own objectives”.

“The clamour for security is legitimate,” says Mark Schneider, Senior Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America. “But justice is better served through effective law enforcement institutions than the barrels of private guns”. 

FULL BRIEFING

2 Apr
Mexico must curb cartel violence | Houston Chronicle 
By Mark Schneider
While the White House’s attention turned to a violent Middle East last week, right next door a vital ally faces a bloody challenge: In Mexico, 3,000 drug-cartel murders have been carried out in just the 100 days since the country’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, took office.
The new president has announced plans to address this problem - and to break with the policies of his predecessor, Felipe Calderón. The devil will be in the details, but Peña Nieto’s broad program is a important start.
Cartel murders since 2006 have surpassed 70,000 - nearly 20 times more than NATO combat deaths after a decade in Afghanistan.
When Calderón took office, he turned to the military, eventually enlisting 40 percent of the country’s soldiers in the fight. The rationale seemed clear: No other force appeared capable, given a paltry national police force and state and local forces unable to take on cartels armed with assault weapons and grenade launchers (often purchased in the United States.) But the military, once a universally respected institution, was not ready for this new task, and soon faced charges of abusing human rights.
The International Crisis Group’s new report, “Peña Nieto’s Challenge: Criminal Cartels and Rule of Law in Mexico,” traces the rise of the cartels under Calderón, the initial responses and the way forward being charted by Mexico’s new president.
The loss of Mexican lives has been extreme; the economic losses are, perhaps, immeasurable. Cartels terrorize enough of rural Mexico to transport large quantities of drugs the entire length of the country on their way to U.S. consumers, to steal oil from pipelines (as much as $4 billion worth each year) and to extort and kidnap for profit.
FULL ARTICLE (Houston Chronicle)
Photo: Flickr/Knight Foundation

Mexico must curb cartel violence | Houston Chronicle 

By Mark Schneider

While the White House’s attention turned to a violent Middle East last week, right next door a vital ally faces a bloody challenge: In Mexico, 3,000 drug-cartel murders have been carried out in just the 100 days since the country’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, took office.

The new president has announced plans to address this problem - and to break with the policies of his predecessor, Felipe Calderón. The devil will be in the details, but Peña Nieto’s broad program is a important start.

Cartel murders since 2006 have surpassed 70,000 - nearly 20 times more than NATO combat deaths after a decade in Afghanistan.

When Calderón took office, he turned to the military, eventually enlisting 40 percent of the country’s soldiers in the fight. The rationale seemed clear: No other force appeared capable, given a paltry national police force and state and local forces unable to take on cartels armed with assault weapons and grenade launchers (often purchased in the United States.) But the military, once a universally respected institution, was not ready for this new task, and soon faced charges of abusing human rights.

The International Crisis Group’s new report, “Peña Nieto’s Challenge: Criminal Cartels and Rule of Law in Mexico,” traces the rise of the cartels under Calderón, the initial responses and the way forward being charted by Mexico’s new president.

The loss of Mexican lives has been extreme; the economic losses are, perhaps, immeasurable. Cartels terrorize enough of rural Mexico to transport large quantities of drugs the entire length of the country on their way to U.S. consumers, to steal oil from pipelines (as much as $4 billion worth each year) and to extort and kidnap for profit.

FULL ARTICLE (Houston Chronicle)

Photo: Flickr/Knight Foundation